The present study examined presence of sexual assault history and perfectionism (viz., positive strivings & evaluative concerns) as predictors of self-destructive behaviors (viz., NSSI & suicidal behaviors) in a sample of 287 women college students. Results obtained from conducting a series of hierarchical regression analyses indicated several notable patterns. Sexual assault history was a consistent predictor of both NSSI and suicidal behaviors. Moreover, the inclusion of perfectionism was also found to consistently predict additional unique variance in NSSI and suicidal behaviors, even after accounting for sexual assault history. These patterns remained largely unchanged even after accounting for shared variance between NSSI and suicidal behaviors. Within the perfectionism set, evaluative concerns emerged as the most consistent unique predictor of both indices of self-destructive behavior. Finally, we did not find evidence for a significant Positive Strivings × Evaluative Concerns interaction effect in our analyses. Overall, our findings indicate that beyond the presence of sexual assault history, perfectionism remains an important predictor of self-destructive behaviors in women college students.
Findings from a number of epidemiological studies around the world have shown that adolescents and emerging adults (e.g., college students) are at heightened risk for engaging in a variety of self-destructive behaviors (Muehlenkamp, Williams, Gutierrez, & Claes, 2009; Thompson & Swartout, 2018; Zetterqvist, Lundh, Dahlström, & Svedin, 2013). Across a spectrum of self-destructive behaviors, two of the most examined in the empirical literature have been non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) and suicidal behaviors. In contrast to suicidal behaviors (e.g., suicidal ideation, suicidal attempts), NSSI behaviors have been defined as the direct and deliberate destruction of body tissue without the intent to die by suicide (Klonsky & Glenn, 2009; Nock & Favazza, 2009). Importantly, findings have shown that women, compared to men, are often at higher levels of risk for engaging in these self-destructive behaviors (e.g., Muehlenkamp et al., 2009; Zetterqvist et al., 2013). For example, in a recent study of a large sample of college students drawn from two universities in the United States, women, compared to men, were more likely to report a prior suicide attempt (Becker, Holdaway, & Luebbe, 2018). Thus, it is not surprising that researchers have been interested in trying to identify factors that predict self-destructive behaviors in women. One distinct factor that has been found to be consistently involved in accounting for self-destructive behavior has been the presence of sexual assault history (e.g., Chang, Batra, Premkumar, Chang, & Hirsch, in press; Tomasula, Anderson, Littleton, & Riley-Tillman, 2012; Ullman, 2004; Ullman & Najdowski, 2009).